Monday, January 14, 2008

Scotland - a wee little ditty

Was there ever a question - I was always going to take the low road!
After the body destroying, doctor looking back and pinpointing the exact moment that you contracted dementia, liver disease and a slight case of gout trip that was skiing for Christmas in 2006; Luke, Kasi and I decided to head to Scotland for a relaxing tour of the Highlands.

Starting in Edinburgh, once again the town didn’t disappoint. The city with the castle on the hill is one of my favourite in Europe. Doing a bit of a mini bar crawl, Luke and I ended up at the Three Sisters – a bar that I have had some memorable nights in before – and it proved itself again. The next morning I was thankful that it was a long drive to head in to the Highlands, as my head wasn’t right and I needed sleep.

The best bits about Scotland is not really the scenery to be honest. While it is stunning, it is very similiar. Imagine New Zealand...but include interesting history...and you have Scotland. Wind swept plains, craggy mountains jutting out of nowhere and rain that descends on you in about three seconds – what a place for a holiday!

Did I mention the ghosts? Checking in to our first hostel we were told that there were two rooms that were supposedly haunted. Didn’t phase us, there were about 15 rooms to pick from: and guess who got the haunted one? I decided to imbibe myself with scotch to avoid the whole issue, but it didn’t help. Despite sampling the Highlands best, I still couldn’t escape the scrapes, sights and eerie sounds. Yes, it was a scarey night listening to Kasi singing (Whispering Jack vs Kasi).

Moving on up through the loch district and in to the rough Highlands, we were treated to stories of the Campbells, Glencoe and the battling tribes. Now my knowledge of Scottish history was a wee lacking; all I really knew was Mel Gibson in Braveheart. You’d think that a Scot commissioned to create a sculpture of William Wallace would know history pretty well – not create a statue of Mel Gibson with Braveheart emblazoned across the shield!!!
The irony of this statue is that it has ‘Freedom’ carved across the bottom, but as it is such an embarrassment it has to be locked away in a cage every night to avoid being damaged.

Moving swiftly along through the Highlands and on to the Isle of Skye, where the main beauty is that there is no one around - plus has one of the best views from a car park of all time. With time passing swiftly, Christmas was upon us and we all bunkered down in a pub near Loch Lachie for Christmas turkey.Jeez did we get boozed. Brussel sprout fights, exploding ballons and of course Uno kept the evening going until the wee hours - a little different from French police raids of the year before but still enjoyable.After a few days spent in hostels along the journey our final night was spent in a castle. Arriving at a large stone entrance and wall, we were all a little taken a back that we were going to be spending the night in an actual huge castle - I was thinking it was just going to be a big house. Entering, there were all the trade marks – statues, large pictures, libraries, trap doors, Professor Plum in the conservatory with the lead pipe, and – yes – their own ghost in the tower. Some Scottish dancing, drinks, open fires and someone literally hanging from the chandelier, bed awaited for some – while others refused to go to bed due to feeling a draft and convinced their room was haunted.

Back to Edinburgh the next night via Loch Ness. Now, apart from thee myth of Nessie, it really is just a big body of water. I wasn’t convinced. Not sucked in at all.So after watching the water for 8 hours it was time to go home after seeing nothing. Couldn’t shake the feeling I was being watched, though. So we struggled back to Edinburgh and managed to head out for a few drinks, but the week was over and we were ready to not only go home, but to not see each other for a few days after being together for every waking moment. After everything was stress free, worked well and done in a cheery manner, it was with little surprise that the English train bound for London was over booked, people had to stand the whole journey and it took 1.5 hours longer than it should of – ahh London. It makes you wonder why you stay really. Well I've got a good reason; she won't let me leave. Thursday, 17 January was my return flight home - which I obviously didn't take - but even if I did it would have been difficult. My flight was due to leave at 1.30 from Heathrow, and at 12.45 a British Airways plane belly flopped onto the runway I was supposed to leave from, causing cancellations across the board, which would have been me. See what I mean? The UK - love to leave, but you just can't.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Scrooge - expect anything less?

So this is Christmas, and what have you done?
Another year over, a new one begun.

Okay, I'm very late on this one I will give you, but the point remains - I for one lamented the end of 2007. I had a great year. While 2006 was good, it started bad, was a struggle once reaching the UK and it wasn’t until I met my now regular group of friends at Christmas 2006 that I would say the life I enjoy now really began. When that clock struck 12.00.01am, I’m not really going to be too happy about it. And on that note, I don’t really like Christmas too much either.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind the holiday, I don’t mind the presents, but Christmas cheer – bugger off. There’s nothing fun about Christmas carols. They blare in your ear, the grate down your spine and they annoy any passer trying to listen to their iPod. Just because it’s Christmas do you think I’m going to put money in your bucket? I don’t give money to the phone lines for X Factor fools singing off key, there’s bugger all chance I will for your effort!

So with all that, I spent Christmas in Scotland (more on that later) never getting the chance to sleep in for the Christmas break, and only received one Christmas present. This meant all I had for Christmas was the desire to knock out carollers two front teeth.

New volleys - best present ever!!!

There are a few highlights for this time of year though. There’s the office Christmas party for example. I won’t go in to this year’s as it was a reasonable tame endeavour, which ended quite civilised. Of course there was the amusing dancing of your colleagues, or the office romance between departments that you could so easily tell had broken up long before as they simply wouldn’t speak to each other (thank Christ it wasn’t my department). No, I’d prefer to relive some of the others.

Christmas parties - opportunities to stick your face where it's not wanted

Who could forget AMP’s Christmas party in 2004 when I walked home from Darling Harbour to Balmain – about 10kms – as I couldn’t get a cab (we had to steal someone’s ride this year and give the driver £60) only to realised I couldn’t find my keys. So unceremoniously I scaled the front of our apartment complex, humming the Spiderman theme song to myself mind you, till I got to the bedroom on the third floor. Naomi was not as impressed with my acrobatics as I was. Considering the three story plunge while balancing on a brick ledge pissed as a fart, I don’t really blame her.

Or 2006 when a Thursday night ended in piggy backing to bars at 4am. Waking up the next morning at 10am I did question why on earth we had Christmas party on a weeknight. Receiving a phone call from my boss at 10.15am wondering why I wasn’t in - which I thought a strange question as a hung over was the obvious answer - made me curse Christmas again. Made it in to work at 1pm that day.

Fun times.

But at least at home you can lie in the sun, go to the beach, or relax by the pool. But not in the Ol’ Bligh. Let me give you a quick run down of the jolly season. Firstly there's betting on whether it will snow or not. Sounds fun and happy and all things tinsel doesn't it? Well not when every year no snow comes but it pelts down with freezing ice storms. People happily chuckle 'well maybe next year, ha ha', avoiding the grim realisation that they just lost 20 quid, are wet, freezing and have to listen to carollers rattle on about harking the herald angels.

The novovirus: This little arse kicker has been ripping through London since December. I've had it, the bloke next to me has had it and guaranteed if you are in London now - you'll get it. It is a 48 hour vomiting disease that has been decimating the Capital for a month, infecting 100,000 a week and is expected to blossom when school goes back. Combine this with the stock standard Janaury flu and it's more fun than a blind convention in an abattoir.

You know you have been here for too long when this doesn't phase you, and you even cheer up when you start considering the fact that 22 December is the shortest day and you only have to get through January until you get to see that glowing ball of heat and light in the sky. Might go and place a bet on whether it will be a warm summer or not - will probably snow.